The Countown Is On — And It’s Short!

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Laurel and I jogging along the Willis Ave Bridge with our guardian run angel, Nigel.

We’re less than a week away from race day!! Can you believe it? I cannot. But I am sitting here drinking all of the water and eating all of the pasta and oatmeal so that I am fully hydrated and filled with glucose come Sunday.

The scary part of the training is done. There’s nothing more I can do to prepare…just a few things I could do to mess it up. But we will focus on the positive, which brings me to my list of runs since I last wrote. (I clearly failed at the regular blogging thing; hopefully the other half of my goal — enjoying and doing well in the race — will turn out better.)

The 18 Miler
As mentioned, I was home in PA for this toughie and I got my dad to bike along with me, which was AWESOME. There’s a tree-lined trail by my parents’ house and because my dad was nervous to bike on the main road, we did nine miles out and nine miles back to make the 18. I was nervous about that at first, but it turned well thanks to the steady chatter along the way. It was so nice to have someone along who wasn’t huffing and puffing and could clearly keep the convo up. (He did mention at the end how tired he wasn’t. Thanks, dad, I was dying.) It was also nice to have him carry my water, Gatorade and Glukos gummies. I could just ask for a little pick-me-up when I needed some fueling and he was there to hand it over. Such a kind soul.

I averaged about a 10:15-minute pace for this run, which was slower than my others, but I think that’s why I felt so great by the end. I even sped up a bit during the last mile. It definitely gave me an awesome feeling of accomplishment. I think that’s the great think about training — you already feel like you did something you never thought you could do. With each longer run, you achieve a new goal and that’s a motivating feeling.

The 13 Mile “Recovery” Week
I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon for this training run and man, did it suck. The good news is I scored a PR. I finished in 2:04, which was 10 minutes faster than my quickest half so far. (I was hoping to break two hours, but, oh well.) I don’t think I was mentally prepared to run a half. I was going into it thinking it was a regular training run that I could just run much faster. And because it was five miles less than the previous week, to me, that seemed doable and easy to just kind of get it done. But no. Not easy. And not a short run either. I think I started out too fast right from the start. I will say, when I got to mile six and saw that I was under an hour, I was pretty psyched. But then it all went downhill. And not literally, which made me pretty sad. In fact, I could have sworn I ran uphill both ways. It was a down-and-back situation and I was so excited to make the turn, because it looked like it was a downward incline. It was not and I almost cried. Then I started to get the chills. I don’t think I drank enough water the day before or the morning of and that was clearly messing with me. To make up for it, I gulped a lot of water at each of the stations, which I also used as my excuse to slow down. (Also, lesson learned for marathon day: Don’t try to run and drink water. I almost choked trying to do that during this race.)

Then the incident happened. Shortly after I failed myself and walked up a slight incline in Prospect Park between miles 10 and 11, I felt a warm sensation down my lower half. In other words, I peed my pants. And not like, oh I don’t want to mess up my time and stop to go to the bathroom. More like, oh my gawd, I cannot stop myself from peeing right now. I’m seriously trying but I can’t so now I give up. Can anyone see this? Thankfully, no one could see my pee in my patterned Sweaty Betty leggings. So I kept dragging on. Then, I saw a bathroom at mile 12, which had no line, because who can’t hold it for the last mile? Well, before I could even open the door, more pee was dripping down my leg and it was all out before I got my pants down. I did sit there for about two minutes catching my breath though. So if you can’t tell, it was pretty terrible in total. And I will forever understand why people accidently poop their pants — it’s just not something you can control even if you wanted to (at least for most people, I imagine). Oh also, my friend picked me up from that race and we had to put a towel down in his car so I wouldn’t get the seat wet. Thanks for the judgment-free zone, pal.

The 20 Miler
Perhaps my best training run yet! I was feeling pretty anti running by this point. I had such a terrible race and thought everything was going to shit (literally?). So I was quite nervous to attempt the 20 miler. (I do remember my boss telling me she was so ready for the taper by the 20 miler week and I wasn’t feeling that way earlier. After the half, I definitely understood what she meant.)

To boost my confidence and excitement a little, I decided to run with a group. I paid to go with the New York Flyers, a pretty big running club in the city. They had pace groups, water stations and fuel stations along the mapped out route, so I figured it was the best way to tackle 20. And I was right.

I decided to join the slower pace group, the 10:30 minute mile. (I was deciding between that and the 10 minute, but figured I could use the ego boost if I was doing better than the rest of the crew, rather than suffering to keep up.) We did stop a bunch of times — at mile 5, we had a dedicated bathroom break that was about 10 minutes and then we stopped for a few minutes at two more water stations. Our route: We met at the New York Running Company store in the Time Warner Center, did a mini loop of Central Park, went down the west side along the Hudson River to the Brooklyn Bridge, over to Brooklyn, over the Polaski Bridge (the halfway point of the marathon) into Queens, over the Queensboro (one of the toughest spots in the race) and up and around Central Park again. I felt great the entire time and I even pulled ahead after we got into Brooklyn. I felt strong going over the Queensboro and into Central Park and I even ran a little farther to make sure I hit the 20, because my tracking app was off from the others. And I surprisingly didn’t mind doing it. If the race goes like this 20 miler, I will be SO. HAPPY. Cross yo’ fingers!

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Maggie, Me and Laurel before our last training run. That’s the Queensboro behind us.

The 12 and 9 Mile Tapers
The last two weeks, I ran with my friends, Laurel and Maggie, which makes the run so much more fun! And the miles fly by when you’re chatting and Lululemon cults and marathon movies to watch. We ended up doing 13.5 miles for the first run, because we wanted to run the last half of the marathon route. We started in Queens, went over the Queensboro Bridge, up First Avenue to the Bronx, back down Fifth Ave and around the park to end where the finish line will be. Because we didn’t know our way when we reached Harlem, we looked a little lost standing on the street corner. Then our running angel, Nigel showed up. He sped past us, saying he’d see us in two weeks, but when we all reached the Willis Ave bridge together, we told him we had no idea where we were going. He slowed his typical 7-minute mile pace down to our 9:30ish so he could show us the way. (Runners are so friendly!) We met another friend too, George, who was rocking 18 miles that day and also following Nigel. As Maggie said, we really felt the marathon spirit that day.

We did our last run this past Saturday, doing the bridge again and the strip of Fifth Ave that is so very hard that I am super nervous about it for the race. It’s basically a mile uphill at the 23ish mile mark. (Why do they do that to us?! I’ll be having my family there for support and encouragement.) We tackled it again, though, and ended back at the future finish line, thinking of how good we would feel at that point come race day. WHICH IS IN 6 DAYS!!!

There you have it: the rest of my training. This week is just a few short runs and lots and lots of rest. I’m trying really hard to switch my emotions from pretty nervous to really excited. So I’ll also be working on that this week.

Laurel, Maggie and I also watched Spirit of the Marathon together the other night and I watched Run for Your Life this weekend. Such great pump up movies! Along with this Alec Baldwin video.

I’ll try to check in the night before the big day to report on my week and how I’m feeling about the race. If not, I’ll do a full recap after! YAY!

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The Big (Running) Leagues

You guys, I’ve reached the weeks where the mileage gets crazy. The point at which people always talk about when marathon training, mostly because they can’t wait for the taper. It almost feels like I should be running the race like, tomorrow. But I still have a month to go, and to be honest, my motivation is draining a little. I haven’t done as well as I have in the past about keeping my mileage up during the week – or getting at least one longer 6- to 7-miler in between Monday and Friday. But I’m hoping to change that.

I do have a lot to update you on, though, considering I’ve a few runs that were longer than I’ve ever done before…and have told you about zero of them. I’ll start from the top:

The 14-Miler
Way back on August 27, I kicked off my “I’ve never run this far before” mileage. And this one was definitely a confidence booster. I started in Astoria and headed over the Queensboro Bridge – which has become one of my favorite spots in the city to run – and toward Central Park. By the time I got there, I was 4.43 miles in and I got to tackle the remaining 10 with some company: two former co-workers aka friends. I was a little nervous to run with these two: Laurel has done, I believe, nine marathons already. She’s qualified for Boston and when I creeped on her race time on a 10K, she averaged a 7:30. (For some perspective, I’m lucky if I finish a run in under 9:45.) The other lady in training, Maggie, also ran a marathon before and I don’t know for sure, but I think she’s speedy too. I’m not great at pushing through a long run while also trying to push my pace, so you can see why I was anxious about keeping up. But it worked out so well. I felt great through the majority of the run; it only got a little dicey at the end. And we averaged what I think was a 9:37ish. (I can’t be sure because my phone died and Laurel had to tell me when my mileage was up – they both had a little further to go.) I felt so good after, I was excited to get back out to run again. We also celebrated with a pretty awesome brunch, where we all not only ordered our own omelets, but a serving of lemon ricotta pancakes for the table, too. #carboloading #orcalorieloading

My First 16-Miler
And this is where it took a turn for the bad. I literally almost cried out there when I was trekking through Central Park for this doozy. I felt like I was going to puke or pass out or just start sobbing — and doing any of those things in the middle of NYC just felt like something I wasn’t up for. Miles 10 to 13 were the worst, which just made me more sad when I was trying to push through, because that’s not even half the marathon. Granted, the day was super hot and humid. I started later than I should have (considering the heat) and I did an out-and-back run for most of it. (I’ve realized that kind of messes with my mindset; I’m much better at running straight to a final destination.) I was tired, then just getting upset that I was tired and thinking to myself, “this is exactly how I do not want the marathon to go.” I stopped at basically every water station I saw, jumped through the sprinklers at one point to cool down a little and had to take a few minutes to walk here and there. In other words, I was just miz. And then disappointed. And then even more nervous for November 6. The most important thing though: I actually finished. And I finished with a 10:06 average pace, which was wayyy better than I thought I did.

The 12-Miler Recovery Week
I ran the Friday morning before work on the weekend of September 16, because I was headed out of town and knew I wouldn’t run. (Drag 30th birthday brunch = no longer in a physically healthy state to move my body very far out of bed, let alone run serious miles.) I ran from my apartment to work, another one of my new favorite activities. I had to make the route longer though, so I did a half lap around the reservoir in Central Park and then went all the way over to the West Side and down along the Hudson River. (If you’ve never run along this path, you must check it out.) It’s so pretty over there and actually quite peaceful, especially at 7 a.m.

The most important thing about this run was that I came to a revelation: I need to just enjoy the run more. At mile 8, I kept thinking about how tired I was and how I couldn’t wait to be done. But while I was mentally complaining to myself, I wasn’t enjoying the activity anymore and only thinking about it being over. Then, I realized, Mal of course you’re going to finish this run, no matter how tired you are. So you might as well enjoy doing something active outside and take in the awesome scenery. That’s when I decided that I would no longer yearn for the cool-down portion of the workout or the gallon of water or chocolate milk I’d chug at the end. And instead, I actually tuned into the noises, sounds, smells and sights around me and really embraced them. (In other words, I was being mindful. I hope Gabby Bernstein would be proud.)

It’s seriously an awesome thing to be able to see so much of the city by foot and it’s even cooler that my body has carried me through so many miles. Ever since that day, I’ve been telling myself to just breath and take it all in.

16-Miler, Round 2
Hello, Mal, you’re back in action! This run felt great and I was honestly a little giddy going through it, because it felt so good. I only had a few miles (probably more like quarter miles) that I was regretting my life choices, but for the majority of the run, I was just happy and proud to be out there. I took a somewhat different route from Queens to Central Park, this time heading up along the East River. (It was nice to be back on my old turf – I lived on the UES for five years.) I decided this path might be a good option after attending an event about negative splitting a marathon — aka running the second half faster than the first, something only about 4% of marathoners do (you can imagine why). There, I learned that miles 23 to 26 of the NYC marathon are pretty difficult, considering there’s a decent incline going up 5th Avenue. So I decided to tackle that, so at least I would know what I was in for come race day. Mental note: it’s definitely not easy. I was only on mile 7 when I got there, so I can only image what 23 is like. The good thing is now I’m mentally prepared to take it on. And I’m also hoping some cheerleaders on the sidelines will help. I still got through this run with a smile on my face and even a little sprint to the finish (look at me!).

In other news, my appointments at physical therapy are going well. Though I’m still having IT band issues and I’ve started to get pain in my hip (which apparently might be tendinitis, but I’m trying to ignore that), I feel pretty good. I’m not sure my body loves me for putting it through so much stress and I still don’t have the fueling down quite yet, but I’m feeling good! That’s all a girl can ask for.

Tomorrow I tackle 18 miles, and I’m back in Pennsylvania for it. I’ve recruited my parents (or just one of them) to keep me company on the bike. Wish me luck — and I hope to tell you about it sooner rather than later this time!